Jill Irving Sets Early Tone for Canada’s Olympic Team Selection

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Graphic by BlackHorse-One

Jan. 15, 2020

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

Jill Irving’s double victory at Florida’s Global Dressage Festival set the tone for Canada’s Olympic dressage selection series with at least another six shows in the United States before the wrapup at home in Canada in five months.

Jill and Degas, her 18-year-old Hanoverian gelding that partnered on the Pan American Games gold medal team last summer, led a Canadian trio that dominated the World Cup, the opening event in the lineup of of seven CDIs in Wellington.

It was also the first competition in Canada’s calendar to seek selection for the Olympic team of three rider and horse combinations plus a reserve for Tokyo in July. Selection runs until June 8. That leaves contenders with another seven shows on the U.S. East Coast, six in Wellington by the end of March and one at Tryon in mid-April, with three CDIs in Ontario, Canada in May.

“I’ve dreamed about competing at the Olympic Games since I was a child,” said Jill whose success put her at the top of the Global prize money rankings. “That would be an awesome goal to achieve this year.”

Close behind was Brittany Fraser-Beaulieu on All In, her mount on the 2015 Pan Am silver medal team at Small Tour and at Grand Prix at the 2018 World Equestrian Games. Although she was out of competition for seven months last year to give birth to her first child, Brittany and the 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding are the top ranked Canadian pair on the world standings.

Naima Moreira Laliberté, at 23 years of age and six months out of the Under-25 division, placed second in the Grand Prix and third in the Freestyle on Statesman, the 13-year-old Hanoverian gelding she rode on the Pan Am gold medal team with Jill.

All three riders are coached by Ashley Holzer, who rode in four Olympics for Canada before switching to compete under the Stars & Stripes and has declared her intention to pursue a place on the United States team for Tokyo.